“In a few short decades the West undercut 150 years of legal reforms that made the global economy possible.”

The very systems that could have provided markets and governments with the means to understand the global financial crisis—and to prevent another one—are being eroded. Governments have allowed shadow markets to develop and reach a size beyond comprehension. Mortgages have been granted and recorded with such inattention that homeowners and banks often don’t know and can’t prove who owns their homes. In a few short decades the West undercut 150 years of legal reforms that made the global economy possible.

841 - Lava Lamp Seamless Pattern
Creative Commons License photo credit: Patrick Hoesly

The results are hardly surprising. In the U.S., trust has broken down between banks and subprime mortgage holders; between foreclosing agents and courts; between banks and their investors—even between banks and other banks. Overall, credit (from the Latin for “trust”) continues to flow steadily, but closer examination shows that nongovernment credit has contracted. Private lending has dropped 21 percent since 2007. Outstanding loans to small businesses dropped more than 6 percent over the past year, while lending to large businesses, measured in commercial loans of more than $1 million, fell nearly 9 percent.
. . .

Professor Christopher L. Peterson of the University of Utah said “For the first time in the nation’s history, there is no longer an authoritative, public record of who owns land in each county.”
. . .
The rule of law is much more than a dull body of norms: It is a huge, thriving information and management system that filters and processes local data until it is transformed into facts organized in a way that allows us to infer if they hang together and make sense.

The Destruction of Economic Facts,” by Hernando de Soto with Karen Weise, Bloomberg Businessweek, April 28, 2011

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